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Improve Student Reading Comprehension, Vocabulary, and Background Knowledge with ReadWorks

by Susan Coulter, Baldwin Park Adult and Community Education, Baldwin Park, CA
Posted February 2020 Homepage showing links to Sign Up, Log in, and Student Log In.

Readworks is a free, non-profit site focused on improving teacher effectiveness and student achievement in reading comprehension by providing free standards-aligned content, curriculum, and tools based on the highest quality cognitive scientific research on how to learn to read.

ReadWorks has partnered with leading museums and cultural institutions to provide thousands of high-quality fiction and non-fiction articles along with research-based question sets and vocabulary activities.

Materials can be presented digitally in a ReadWorks classroom, printed, or projected in the classroom. The ReadWorks classroom can also be synchronized with your Google Classroom. Assignments are then displayed in your Classroom Stream.

Article-A-Day is a ten to fifteen-minute reading activity to systematically build background knowledge. Students are asked to write two things they learned from the article they read.

StepReads takes the authentic article and gives the student the same article at a lower Lexile level. StepReads and audio support allow the instructor to provide differentiated instruction to struggling readers.

Setting up a ReadWorks Classroom

You will first want to sign up for a teacher account. Select the blue sign up link on the homepage and complete the form.

Signup form requesting first and last name, email and password

Once you have a ReadWorks account, select the Class Admin tab in the upper right-hand corner of your screen.

Shows the top right-hand corner of the homepage. There is a red oval around Class Admin. Show the Create a Class pop-up window with links to Create a New Class or Import from Google Classroom.

Create a New Class

You can create any number of classrooms. Select Create a New Class, add the approximate grade level, and enter the name of your class.

Shows the selected grade level, the name of the class, and Next

Select Next. You are now given two different ways to add students. You can Invite with Google Sign In or Invite with Roster.

Gives two different options for enrolling students. One is invite with Google and the other is Invite with roster.

Have your students go to and enter your class code. Students will now be able to access assignments.

Gives three steps to inviting students. Step 1: Have students go to Step 2: Students enter the Class Code. Step 3: Start assignments!

Import from Google Classroom

You can link your ReadWorks account to your Google Classroom. Select Import from Google Classroom. Select your Google account. You will then need to give ReadWorks permission to access your Google account.

ReadWorks needs permission to access your Google Account including course work, grades, roster, and classes. Google Classroom Import asking for the class to import, and the grade. Publish assignments to Google Classroom by default is checked.

Select the class you want to import and the approximate reading level of your class. Publish assignments to Google Classroom is checked by default.

Note: Please make all changes to ReadWorks assignments on the ReadWorks site. If you make those changes in Google Classroom, the assignments in ReadWorks will not be updated.

As you add students to your Google Classroom, you will need to use the Sync Roster feature to update your roster on ReadWorks. Go to Class Admin and select the class you want to update. Assignments appear in students’ Google Classroom Stream.

Import from Google Classroom. Under Class Roster, the option drop down is shown and Sync Roster is selectyed.

Finding Content

Find Content. The top of the homepage screen is shown and Find Content is highlighted with a red oval.

Select the Find Content tab at the top of the page. There are numerous ways to filter content to meet your classroom needs. At the top of the page you can search by keyword. Each entry displays the approximate grade level of the selection, the Lexile level, the number of words, the type of literature, and any question sets or vocabulary activities associated with the entry.


Reading Passages

Selecting Reading Passages will bring up over four thousand entries. You can then filter by the type of Curriculum Supports, Grade Level, Topic, Text Type, or Lexile Level.

Reading Passage. Reading Passages is selected and three entries are shown.

Articles can be saved to My List by selecting the bookmark to the right of the article title.

Save to My List. One entry is shown. There is a red arrow point to the icon and the words Save to My List.


Article-A-Day. Article a Day Sets are sets are selected.

Article-A-Day sets are a collection of articles on a general topic. Students can select a different article to read each day. They are then asked to write two or three things they learned and want to remember about an article in their online Book of Knowledge. Their notes on a topic are then submitted. Struggling students can use the audio support as needed. The activity takes between ten and fifteen minutes and helps build a student’s background knowledge and vocabulary. There is also a collection of Article-A-Day passages for English Language Learners. This collection is found under Curriculum & Supports and Collections for ELLs.

Book of Knowledge. Book of Knowledge is selected and a sample response is given to the directions of please write 2 or 3 things you have learned from the article that you want to remember.

Paired Text

Paired Text. Paired text is selected for Grade 7.

Students are asked to compare and/or contrast two similar articles by way of a Question set in Paired Text.

Paired Text. Sample questions from Paired Text are shown.


Many articles come with StepReads to help struggling readers. These articles contain the same content, but at a lower Lexile level. Instructors can choose to assign StepReads to individual students or the whole class.

StepReads. Passage is shown and StepReads is highlighted by a red oval on the right-hand side.


ReadWorks has transformed many of their reading passages into eBooks. Each page graphically depicts the content and the audio player highlights the text as it is read aloud.

eBook. eBook is shown and the eBook tab is highlighted with a red circle. Page has both text and graph. One sentence is highlighted in yellow.

Assigning Content

Once you have found a passage, you can easily assign it to the whole class or specific students. You decide which additional supports you want the student to have available.

Assign. Shows a passage with the Assign button highlighted with a red circle at the top of the screen. Assign. Show the Assign tab and the different selections: Audo, StepReads, Questions, Vocabulary, Class, Assign to Whole class, specific students, start date and due date.

Student View and Tools

When students first log in to their account, they will see the work that has been assigned to them by their teacher.

Assignment to Do. Shows the student view of Assignments To Do.

When they select an assignment to work on, they have numerous tools available to them on the student toolbar.

Passage. Shows the student view of a passage with split screen and different text highlighted. There is a red oval around the student toolbar.

The following tools are available:

  • Size of the text - Students can increase the size of the text a couple of levels.

  • Paragraphs - Numbered paragraphs help students refer to different parts of the selection as they answer the comprehension questions.

  • Audio recording of the selection - The instructor can choose to show or not show the audio bar when the assignment is created.

  • Highlight Bar - Helps the student focus on the text. Only one line is visible and the rest are grayed out. The student moves the bar at their own rate.
    Highlight Bar. Shows passage with the highlight bar selected.

  • Screen Divider - This divides the screen into two sections showing the text on the left and the questions on the right.

Students can also highlight text and even leave comments.

After submitting, the student is able to immediately see their graded responses by selecting the Results tab at the top. Naturally, the instructor will need to grade the short answer questions.

Results. Shows student comprehension question results. The results tab is highlighted.

Teacher View & Grades

As a teacher, select the Assignments and Progress tab at the top of the page. Here you will see your current assignments and how many have been submitted.

Assignments & Progress. Shows a list of current assignments and the number submitted. There is a blue Class Results button under each assignment.

Selecting Results will display each student’s answers to the multiple choice questions. Written answers have to be graded by the instructor; however, ReadWorks provides suggested answers and what to look for in the student’s written response.

Grades. The class results page is shown for one assignment showing correct and incorrect responses to the Multiple Choice questions by student. Written Answer, Grade these is highlighted by a red oval.

Web-Based Activity

There are so many options to choose from the ReadWorks curriculum. If you are teaching ESL, be sure to take a look at the ELL Collection. ABE teachers will want to take a look at the Article-A-Day selections and ASE teachers the Paired Text; however, all text options are appropriate for all levels.


  1. Sign up for a ReadWorks teacher’s account

  2. Create a class and enroll students.

  3. Select a passage

  4. Create your own student account so you can experience ReadWorks as a student. This will also give you a student account to display when showing students.

How To:

  1. Introduce the topic of the passage and why you chose the passage.

  2. Demonstrate how to log into the student account. Make sure each student is able to log in.

  3. Demonstrate the different tools they can use and how they can help your students.

  4. Introduce the Question Set.

  5. Give students time to complete the activity.

  6. When students complete the activity, project the activity so student can see the article. Go through the article and elicit responses to the questions and writing assignment.

  7. Students may need assistance the first couple of times.

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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN220124 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.